by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
In 1916 Geoffrey de Havilland, English pilot, and chief designer of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company Ltd (Airco), proposed to the military authorities a project for a multipurpose two-seat airplane with a 160 hp Beardmore water cooled engine and the classic crew arrangement of pilot in front and gunner-observer behind.
Already by August of that year the new type, the DH 4, made its first flight under the control of its designer. Its performance was more than satisfactory and De Havilland's firm received a preliminary order as soon as autumn 1916 for 740 machines. However, the Beardmore engine appeared to be unimpressive to say the least, and consequently the airframe was quickly adapted to take the Rolls Royce Eagle engine. Production machines differed from the prototype in the fuselage nose, but the rest of the construction appeared to be very successful and no substantial changes were required elsewhere.
The first production aircraft were delivered to 55 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps in January 1917, and during the next few months six other units received the DH4. Soon it gained wide popularity among air crews and was considered to be the very best single-engine bomber. Even with a full bomb load it retained good basic flying qualities, and after releasing its bombs it could fight on equal terms with enemy fighters.
DH 4 bombers mostly flew on combat missions without an escort of fighters. The only shortcoming of the design was a significant distance between the crewmen, due to the location of the fuel tank between the pilot and gunner-observer. Its impressive speed and rate of climb allowed the type to be used not only as a bomber, but also as an interceptor and high altitude photoreconnaissance plane.
Several other aircraft manufacturers were soon drawn in; FW Berwick & Co, Glendower Aircraft Company, Palladium Autocars, Vulcan Motor and Engineering, and Westland Aircraft Works all built the DH 4, apart from Airco itself. Overall, during 1917-1918 British firms produced almost
1,500 DH 4 aircraft, in all its different versions. Additionally, the type was ordered into production in the United States in vast numbers.
With the increasing volume of series production, other engines were installed in the DH 4; the RAF3a, the Siddeley Puma, and the Fiat A12. Machines built in USA from the very beginning had only the American designed Liberty engines. However, the majority of aircraft built in its native Britain were fitted with one or other of the various versions of the Rolls Royce Eagle. This kit represents airframes with the Royal Aircraft Factory RAF 3a 1914 - Main production variant, increased bore, 260 horsepower (194 kW). 29 built by Armstrong Whitworth, 260 built by Napier & Son.
At the beginning of 1918 the Royal Flying Corps gained a successor to the DH4, the multipurpose two seat DH9. It was planned as an improved development of the DH4 and was intended to replace it, however already by the summer of that year, due to a poorly performing engine and serious combat losses, it was withdrawn from the front line, and the DH4 continued its active service until the last months of the War, when it was replaced with the up-to-date DH9A.
The DH 4 was widely used on the Western Front, and many machines were employed on other fronts. Apart from Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Spain, Greece, Cuba, and Chile were all equipped with the DH 4. During the Russian Civil War Wrangel's White Army received approximately 20 airplanes of the type from Great Britain, and at least two of them were fitted with Rolls Royce Eagle engines and were captured by the Red Army, and used by the Workers' and Peasants' Air Fleet. After the end of WWI many DH4s were rebuilt as passenger, transport and mail planes and were used in these roles until the late 1920s.
The Kit Contents
8 sprues holding 248 parts total.
2 clear films for wind screens.
3 BEF decal variations.
8 page instruction booklet.
The fact is that the upper engine cowling is moulded to the upper decking and the cylinder banks are the same generic items from previous issues. The cowling louvres are the main key indicator for the engine installation. Otherwise the build is a straight forward affair.
Opening the box the parts are quite well moulded, There is a minor bit of flash, Plus some interior structure related sink-marks on the front fuselage sides where there's detail moulded on the inside. On the plus side, ejector-pin marks are few and far between and kept pretty much out of sight.
The detail is typical and consists of some engraved lines, raised items like louvres and subtle lacing on the fuselage and lightly depicted fabric effect on the flying surfaces. Wing ribs are slightly raised on upper surfaces and recessed on the undersides (as though the fabric has sagged under gravity a little. There are no rib tapes depicted, and some may wish to add these on both upper and underside surfaces.
The kit features a detailed plastic interior. The selection of armaments include Vickers machine guns with single or twin forward-firing guns and a three types of bombs.
While not a suitable kit for beginners I think modelers with moderate experience will have a fine build. The two-bay wings will require careful alignment. The struts are all separate and using a simple Lego block jig is probably a good idea to keep everything lined up straight and true. Dry fitting is always a key component to a good build.
1. DH 4 A7459 RNAS, one of two machines modified to perform long range photo reconnaissance Kiel Canal in the summer of 1917. These airframes have additional armament on the upper wing center section. They also served in intercepting Zeppelins and along with other early machines served in equipping the fledgling Home Defence Sqdns.
The special camouflage was painted light cream - bisquit colour with random light-blue tiger striping (on all surfaces). Blue colour of marking is very light on the displayed plane, also white strip in the tricolour on rudder was re-painted a mid-grey colour. Serial number (A7459 & A 7457) on fuselage and on rudder was overpainted. These two airframes first served in 55 Squadron RFC and were transferred to the RNAS.
2. DH 4 A7557 RNAS, No. 18 Sqdn RFC La Bellevue, France, September, 1917.
3. DH 4 A7694 RNAS, No. 49 Sqdn RFC La Bellevue, France, December, 1917.
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